(3:05 p.m. EDT) -- In light of last week's tragic shooting death of a cruise passenger, we spoke today with U.S. Virgin Islands Commissioner of Tourism Beverly Nicholson-Doty for more details on the crime-busting efforts on the island. Yesterday, Cruise Critic reported on the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism's overview of enhanced safety and security measures being implemented on St. Thomas -- one of the most popular Caribbean cruise ports -- but we still had questions about what exactly was being done to minimize the risk to visitors moving forward.
Here's what we learned:
Police force presence is up -- but by how much? Nicholson-Doty was not able to give a specific figure or percentage. However, she did tell us that 20 police officers graduated from the local academy last Friday -- a nice boost to the force as the police commissioner continues to assign additional officers to Coki Point Beach and other tourism areas. Nicholson-Doty tells us that the police department is also reactivating a tourism-oriented segment of the force that will receive special sensitivity training for dealing with visitors; this is expected to be in place within the next seven days.
What is "intelligence gathering"? The overview statement issued after Friday's meeting referenced "intelligence gathering prior to and during visits of the areas frequented by visitors" and "careful monitoring of movement of visitors." What exactly does this mean? The tourism department is essentially communicating to the police department information trends as far as who is visiting and where they are touring, dining and shopping.
"We know that certain times of the year, that may shift," Nicholson-Doty says. "Over holiday periods we tend to get more children and families. We're really taking that data and using that to help guide the police department so they are addressing any potential problems ahead of time."
What else is being done to clean up Coki Point Beach? In addition to the crime fighting measures above, the police department is teaming up with housing, parks and recreation to improve the overall area -- through ongoing cleanliness and landscaping projects, ensuring local vendors are properly licensed and so on. This enhancement plan is now on the fast track.
When will cruise lines resume Coki area tours? It'll be at least another week before that topic is on the table. Nicholson-Doty says it will take 7 to 10 days to completely implement this safety and security plan, which was presented to the FCCA on Friday, at which point further discussions about resuming shore excursions to the area will take place.
Other measures in the works? You can expect to see more scooters, ATV's and foot patrols in all the tourism-related areas, and more surveillance cameras (installation of units at Coki Point Beach has already been approved). Additional lighting and canine patrols are also being considered.
"This is certainly an unfortunate incident and our condolences [go out] to the family," Nicholson-Doty says. "The Virgin Islands get close to 2 million visitors a year and, by and large, we have had very few incidents of crime against visitors. We're certainly not diminishing the issue at all. We're dealing with it straight on ... [but] this is certainly not a normal circumstance, and we want to convey that St. Thomas remains a safe destination to visit."
--by Melissa Paloti, Managing Editor
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St. Thomas Offers More Details on Crime-Busting Efforts
July 20, 2010